GAA Football

Barry Fortune grabs late, late goal to seal Cavan Gaels place in Ulster Club final

John P Graham

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AIB Ulster Club Senior Football Championship semi-final: Cavan Gaels (Cavan) 5-7 Derrygonnelly Harps (Fermanagh) 2-15

AFTER 140 minutes plus change, one solitary white flag was enough to earn a dream Ulster final date with Slaughtneil for Cavan Gaels – whilst sabotaging Derrygonnelly’s hopes in the process.

While it may have come down to a point in yesterday’s replay in Clones, green flags were the real talking point as the Cavan champions raised five in all, including Barry Fortune’s match-winning goal in the sixth minute of additional time.

Referee Sean Laverty played on for a number of minutes and although Gary McKenna pointed a free for the Harps, the Gaels held on to record a 5-7 to 2-15 win in a bona fide Ulster Club classic.

For their manager Jason O’Reilly, it was reassuring to see his side battle to the end, but he also pointed to some issues that, if repeated, would be ruthlessly exposed in next Sunday’s final.

“When they were in front in stoppage time it was essential for us not to panic and they didn’t panic and fought to the bitter end,” he said.

“There were aspects of our play today when we were turned over and we wasted possession too often and that will have to be tightened up on before the final, but it’s great to be in the final after so many years.”

While the game’s key moment came in the 66th minute, the real turning point came in the moments either side of half-time as the Fermanagh side conceded three goals in four minutes before the interval and then another goal directly after the break.

“It was a great boost at that time because we were, I think it was, five points down at that stage,” said O’Reilly, who will lead the club into their first final since 1977.

“Again that shows the character in them that they were able to respond to adversity. We did tend to switch off a bit at times but, in fairness to them, they got switched back on again and they did fight right to the very end.”

Even after those four goal blows, Derrygonnelly showed tremendous spirit to reel in a six-point deficit and then move ahead, but manager Martin Greene felt that luck deserted them on the day.

“I have to give credit to the boys, they played very well but there were a few bad breaks that just went against us that saw us concede goals and we then had our goalkeeper (Dermot Feely) injured at the start of the second-half, which was another blow.

“However hard it is to take, I still want to wish Cavan Gaels all the best in the final.”

Like his counterpart, Green felt that the concession of those three first-half goals ultimately led to be their downfall.

“We conceded three in four minutes and that made it difficult but fair play to the boys, they came back and showed the character that is in this team.

“They showed great fighting spirit, but in the end it’s bitter disappointment.”

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